Back-to-School Shopping: What to Bring to Boarding School

August means it's time to plan for boarding school, and if it's your first year away at school, you'll need to know what to bring to campus. While every school is different, there are some general items that most students need. Check with your student life office for specific items required by your school.

Boarding school students can expect that their school will provide basic furnishings, including a twin-size bed and mattress, desk, chair, dresser, and/or closet units. Each roommate will have their own furnishings, but room configurations may vary. However, there are several items that all boarding school students should include on their back-to-school shopping list.

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Back to School Bedding
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While a bed and mattress are provided, you need to bring your own bedding, including:

  • Two sheet sets (dorm beds are usually twin or twin XL size, but ask your student life office before purchasing). Bringing two sets of sheets means you will always have one on the bed and one in the laundry.
  • A mattress cover
  • Pillows and a blanket and/or comforter. Depending on where you are going to school and how cold it gets in the winter, you may want to bring one light blanket and one heavy blanket. 
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shower supplies, shower caddy, toiletries
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Don't forget your bathroom and hygiene supplies, which you may need to store in your room and carry to the bathroom. Toiletries you may need include:

  • A shower tote to carry your toiletries
  • Towels and washcloths. Like your sheets, bring at least two sets so you can always have one clean set on hand. 
  • Shower shoes or a pair of flip-flops
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap, and body wash
  • Toothpaste, a toothbrush, mouthwash, and dental floss
  • Cotton swabs or cotton balls
  • A brush and comb and any other hair products you use regularly
  • Sunscreen and lotion. These are often overlooked, but with the amount of time you'll likely be spending outdoors for sports and activities, remembering to wear sunscreen can keep you healthy and burn free. Body lotion is important if the air gets dry in the winter and you need to moisturize.
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This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's important to remember to bring different types of clothing, especially if you're not able to travel back home often.

Start by making sure you have the required dress code items. Dress codes may vary, but typically dress slacks or skirts and dress shoes are required, as well as button-down shirts, ties, and blazers. Ask your student life office for specific dress code requirements. 

If you're going to a school where fall and winter may bring inclement weather, including rain and snow, bring:

  • Winter boots (waterproof or water-resistant)
  • A scarf, winter hat, and gloves
  • A waterproof jacket
  • An umbrella

Bring an array of clothing options, as you may find yourself in a variety of situations that require different attire. You will likely need:

  • Dress clothing for formal occasions
  • Jeans, shorts, and other casual clothes
  • Athletic gear
  • Sneakers and dress shoes
  • Sweaters and sweatshirts 
  • T-shirts and tank tops
  • Sunglasses
  • A baseball cap
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Laundry Items

Laundry bag containing dirty washing with copy space
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You'd be surprised how many students forget about this aspect of boarding school: washing your own clothes. Some schools offer laundry services where you can send your clothes to be laundered, but if you plan on doing your own, you'll need:

  • A laundry bag
  • Laundry detergent, stain remover, dryer sheets
  • A clothes-drying rack (to dry towels and hand wash items)
  • A small sewing kit
  • Quarters (if your laundry room accepts cash)
  • Clothes hangers
  • A lint roller
  • Underbed storage containers for extra clothing and/or storing your detergent
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Desk and School Supplies

Office: Office Supplies
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Since there may not be an office supply store nearby, make sure you have these back-to-school basics:

  • A backpack or bag to carry your books and devices to class
  • All required technology, such as a tablet computer, laptop, and calculator
  • An alarm clock with battery backup in case you lose power
  • An energy-efficient desk lamp
  • A USB or flash drive
  • School supplies, including pens, pencils, binders, notebooks, sticky notes, highlighters, and a stapler
  • A planner. This may be your smartphone or tablet, but make sure you have some way of keeping track of assignments, activities, and events.
  • A surge protector and extension cord
  • A flashlight
  • A seat cushion for your desk chair

Don't forget chargers for your computer and cellphone.

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Reusable Containers and Snacks

Group colorful water bottle - pure white background
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While boarding schools provide meals, many students enjoy keeping some quick snacks on hand in their rooms. Helpful items include:

  • Sealable containers (to store snacks)
  • A​ ​reusable mug and water bottle
  • Reusable dishes and cutlery
  • Juice or sports drinks that don't need to be refrigerated
  • Dishwashing liquid and a sponge
  • Single-serving snacks, like popcorn and chips
  • Granola bars
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Medicine and First Aid Items

First aid articles
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Your school will likely have some specific instructions on how medicines and first aid items are administered, and rarely are you able to keep medicine in your room. Check with the health center or student life office for specific guidelines. 

  • First aid kit with alcohol wipes, antibacterial cream, and Bandaids for minor paper cuts and scrapes.
  • Necessary over-the-counter and prescription medications (check with the health center for storage guidelines).
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Your Citation
Jagodowski, Stacy. "Back-to-School Shopping: What to Bring to Boarding School." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Jagodowski, Stacy. (2021, February 16). Back-to-School Shopping: What to Bring to Boarding School. Retrieved from Jagodowski, Stacy. "Back-to-School Shopping: What to Bring to Boarding School." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).